I recently read about a case of Staphylococcus at my child's school. Upon further research on the internet, I have seen news reports that there are "resistant" forms of this bacterium that are causing issues in the US and abroad. I follow general infection control procedures in my practice, but I did not know if I needed to do anything special with what some news sources are calling this "staph super bug".
The recent outbreak of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) serves as a reminder to audiologists of the importance of infection control in the clinical environment. MRSA is a type of bacterium resistant to certain antibiotics including methicillin, penicillin, and amoxicillin (CDC, 2007). In the past, this genetic mutation of Staphylococcus has typically manifested as a nosocomial infection (i.e. hospital or health-care facility acquired); apparently, it has found its way into the general population.
The main mode of MRSA transmission is through direct or indirect contact with the hands. Hand hygiene is the single most important activity that audiologists can do to minimize the potential spread of MRSA. Washing hands with liquid, medical grade soap and water must occur immediately prior to the patient appointment, throughout the patient appointment as needed, immediately upon the removal of gloves, and at the end of the patient appointment. If access to a sink with running water is not available, the use of no-rinse hand degermers serves as an appropriate alternative to traditional hand washing. Beyond hand hygiene, audiologists are legally and ethically obligated to uphold the federally mandated infection control standards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and formalized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
For more detailed information, audiologists are referred to the resource "Infection Control in the Audiology Clinic" (2nd Edition) by Bankaitis and Kemp. This book may be ordered through Oaktree Products toll free at 800.347.1960.
CDC (2007) Healthcare-associated methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (HA-MRSA). Available: www.cdc.gov
Bankaitis, A.U. & Kemp, R.J. (2005). Infection Control in the Audiology Clinic (2nd Edition), St. Louis, MO: Auban, Inc.
A.U. Bankaitis is Vice President and General Manager of Oaktree Products. She is an audiologist with a niche expertise in the area of infection control.